The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

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by James Morton Smith
     
 

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison have been called the two greatest philosopher statesmen of the American Enlightenment.
For the first fifty years of the new nation's existence, they formed a personal and political partnership, jointly working out the ideology of democracy and the practice of representative government.
The collaboration began in 1776, when

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Overview

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison have been called the two greatest philosopher statesmen of the American Enlightenment.
For the first fifty years of the new nation's existence, they formed a personal and political partnership, jointly working out the ideology of democracy and the practice of representative government.
The collaboration began in 1776, when Jefferson and Madison met as members of the Virginia House of Delegates, and ended fifty years later, when Jefferson died. They exchanged nearly 1,250 letters, running the gamut from short notes ("Will you come and sit an hour before dinner to-day?" Jefferson scribbled to Madison in 1791) to Madison's remarkable seventeen-page letter on the results of the Constitutional Convention.
Whether every letter was a faultless work of art may be debated. But their correspondence reveals, in precision and complex detail, what Jefferson called "freshness of fact." Since neither Jefferson nor Madison kept a diary, their innermost thoughts went directly into their letters, deeply revealing the loyalties and genius of both men.
These volumes present for the first time all of the letters, annotated and in chronological order, organized into chapters by year. In addition to the general introduction to the correspondence, introductory essays to each chapter establish context and identify persons and events for the general reader.
James Morton Smith is Director Emeritus of The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum and a past director of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. In addition to his many books, he was the general editor of the Bicentennial Series, The States and the Nation, published by Norton.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Editor Smith gathers together in three volumes the entire surviving correspondence of these two American giants. As neither man "ever reduced his thought to a systematic presentation" and as most of Jefferson's political thinking can only be found in his letters, this collection of nearly 1250 letters, covering a great variety of subjects, is a valuable contribution to the study of Jefferson, Madison, and their times. The editor renders this massive collection of letters useful to students and researchers of American history by dividing it into some 50 historical periods, each introduced by an overview that places the correspondence in its proper historical context. Essential for academic libraries and for any library that wishes to strengthen its collection of these two individuals.-Robert A. Curtis, Taylor Memorial P.L., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Booknews
A beautiful job (and an obvious labor of love) by editor Smith, this edition of the complete correspondence between the author of the Declaration of Independence and the "father of the US Constitution" is designed to fill the gap between growing public interest in Jefferson and Madison and the rapidly expanding scholarship that has broadened knowledge of the new nation created by the American Revolution. Introductory chapters set the stage for the exchange of letters by placing the characters, concepts, and events being discussed into a wider historical context. Each chronologically-arranged chapter is also thoroughly introduced, while annotations explicate obscure references or cite sources that analyze the topic referred to. slipcased. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gilbert Taylor
Astonishingly enough, never before have the surviving 1200-plus letters exchanged by the third and fourth presidents been collectively published, and thus the public library that blanches at the steep price for this three-volume set will be shortchanging itself. The letters Jefferson sent during his ambassadorship to France (1785-89) constitute valuable eyewitness summaries of a crucial historical period, as is the case with most of the topics covered in their 50-year correspondence. Editor Smith sorts the epistles chronologically: Madison's confiding to Jefferson, often in their private cipher, here italicized in the text, about the Constitutional Convention of 1787; the duo's opposition to the Federalists in the new government; Jefferson's triumph in the 1800 election; Madison's own two terms as president; and their final collaboration in creating the University of Virginia. The letters are significant, and even the parsimonious library should invest in a little seed corn.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393036916
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/28/1995
Series:
Republic of Letters Series
Pages:
2073
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 10.10(h) x 5.00(d)

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